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Column 092815 Brewer

Monday, September 28, 2015

Cuban and Venezuelan Governments Mollycoddle FARC Guerrillas

By Jerry Brewer

Many are speculating that the world’s longest war is nearing an end. Yet there are also those who would probably ask, “what war?”

Since 1964 an armed conflict for control and related territorial disputes, against Colombia and its military by left-wing guerillas and right-wing paramilitaries, has claimed the lives of an estimated “220,000 people and displaced 5.7 million.”

This half-century conflict of violent atrocities against the homeland by FARC (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia) guerrillas and the so-called National Liberation Army (ELN), has branded them as “terrorist organizations.” 

Colombia’s now heightened frustrations with the FARC, and its empty words, shenanigans and murderous agenda have haunted current and previous administrations.

The latest peace talks began in November 2012, in Havana, Cuba. The Cuban location and oversight is quite possibly the clue as to the past and current tortoise-like movement of these discussions that appear more of a skillfully exploited situation; a charade of sorts that has seen rogue leftist government regimes in Venezuela and Cuba in support of the guerrilla movements.

The FARC alone has clearly shown through the decades that their greatest desire is to gain power and political office, to be forgiven for their atrocities, and to not surrender their arms. As well, the FARC has managed to maintain a strong political position of power and negotiation.

Cuba’s subtle but obvious attention to FARC, and their proclaimed facilitation to this “peace process,” may be nestled in the history of terrorism in regions of Latin America.

Cuba has trained thousands of communist guerrillas and terrorists, and it has sponsored violent acts of aggression and subversion in many democratic nations of the western hemisphere. Furthermore, Cuba has recently shown that it remains adept at harboring terrorists and facilitating the movement of weapons in violation of UN sanctions.  

In an act of profound bewilderment, U.S. President Barack Obama recently announced that Cuba will be removed from the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism. This “despite its ties to Marxist, jihadist and other separatist terrorist organizations.”  Even the U.S. DEA has shown direct and growing criminal drug ties between Colombia's FARC guerrillas and Hezbollah.

Furthermore, Venezuela's failure to cooperate with coordinated drug interdiction and enforcement has resulted in tons of cocaine flowing through Venezuela from Colombia. U.S. authorities have accused three high-ranking Venezuelan officials with aiding Colombian rebels and protecting drug shipments.

The late President Hugo Chavez, of Venezuela, was also shown to have ties to FARC guerrillas. Colombia's national police chief stated that evidence from a computer revealed a US$300 million contribution to the FARC from Chavez.

There is no doubt that the FARC has taken advantage of previous concessions by the Colombian government to talk, disarm, and seek peace. Former Colombian President Andres Pastrana, in 1998, withdrew around 2,000 police and soldiers from over 16 square miles in southern and eastern Colombia, turning over control of that territory to the FARC “as a gesture of goodwill.” The FARC however did not comply with the peace accord efforts, and took advantage of the government by using the territory as a training ground for recruits and future actions.

It has always been clear that the FARC had high-level political support. At his annual State of the Nation address in the National Assembly, on January 11, 2008, then President Hugo Chavez referred to the FARC as "a real army that occupies territory in Colombia.” As well, he stated that the FARC were not terrorists because they had a political goal.

Last Wednesday eyebrows were raised when the guerrilla and FARC leader, Rodrigo Londoño Echeverri (also known as "Timochenko"), arrived at Havana airport in a Beechcraft 1900 aircraft owned by Venezuela’s state owned oil company PDVSA.   

Last June U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Chairman of the Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa, spoke at a Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere hearing entitled, "Colombia: Peace with the FARC?"  She spoke of Cuba’s sympathies for terrorists. “It is vital that we examine all the ramifications. And the first problem is where these talks are being held, in Cuba, under the auspices of the Castro regime, where repression is the order of the day.”

As of last week, both Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and FARC leader “Timochenko” announced what they described as a major breakthrough in the lengthy (so-called) peace talks, saying that they had agreed to “finalize a deal by March 2016.”

Although U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry shortsightedly called this "historic progress,” perhaps, farcically, the hope for peace rests on good faith efforts as Santos, Timochenko, and Cuba’s Raul Castro shook hands on the proposed deal.

The FARC have said they are willing to put down their arms, but “not hand them over to the state.”

Moreover, the issue of drug trafficking is not addressed, although many FARC commanders are wanted on drug trafficking charges. One of the U.S. targets, again Timochenko, who flew into Cuba on the Venezuelan aircraft, has a bounty by the U.S. placed on him for US$5 million “for information leading to his arrest.” This for his involvement “in the manufacture and smuggling of hundreds of tons of cocaine.”

There also remain issues of trials by special courts for crimes of the war, “from sexual abuse and kidnapping to torture and executions,” but the agreement sought includes sharply reduced sentences for those who admit guilt.

And, possibly, the deal breaker could be the most complex issue in all of this – extradition for those most sought after by the U.S.  The odds are high that Cuban and Venezuelan government facilitators will not have any of this.

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Jerry Brewer is C.E.O. of Criminal Justice International Associates, a global threat mitigation firm headquartered in northern Virginia.  His website is located at www.cjiausa.org.

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